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Public safety 'paramount' in sentence for South Surrey sex assault
A 23-year-old man who assaulted two women in their 50s – one of them sexually – in two separate incidents last spring is to spend another 41 months in jail for the crimes.
In handing down sentencing Tuesday in Surrey Provincial Court, Judge James Jardine described the nature and circumstances of the assaults committed by Dardan Elbasani as both "serious and bizarre."
Protecting the public from Elbasani, who is deemed a high risk to reoffend, was "paramount" in determining the penalty, Jardine said.
"He has attacked two strangers. The violence has escalated. There is no explanation for these stranger attacks," the judge said.
"If he does not remain clean and sober, he becomes a danger to the community."
Elbasani was arrested in a Niagara Falls, Ont., casino last July, after police issued a public-safety alert in connection with a June 16 sexual assault in South Surrey's Southmere Village Park.
At the time of the attack, Elbasani was wanted for breaching conditions in connection with a May 14 assault on a woman that occurred in a washroom at Peace Arch Hospital – an assault he said occurred when he went to the hospital to seek help for “self-harming behaviour.”
The identities of both victims are protected by a publication ban. One of the victims attended sentencing.
Elbasani pleaded guilty last August to both incidents, as well as to breaching conditions imposed following the May 14 incident.
Jardine described the June 16 assault as "horrific and repugnant to society's normal expectations."
It occurred around 5:45 a.m., as the victim, 54, was walking in Southmere Village Park. As she approached 16 Avenue, Elbasani came out from the bushes and appeared to be zipping up his pants, Jardine recounted of evidence presented to the court.
Elbasani greeted the woman, who responded briefly and continued on her walk. He then moved toward her. When she started to scream, Elbasani grabbed her left arm and began to punch her. Extensive bruising that developed in the following days make it clear the strikes were forcible and many, Jardine said.
When the woman fell back, an exposed Elbasani straddled her and said he wanted her to perform fellatio. When the woman refused, Elbasani hit her in the head again, then left.
Jardine estimated Elbasani hit the woman five to seven times over the course of the assault. She suffered blunt-force injuries to her shoulder, neck, collarbone, face and head.
Jardine said police investigation linked DNA from the woman's clothing to a sample of Elbasani's that was already in a national databank, that was ordered following a 2008 robbery conviction. Through an examination of area businesses' video surveillance, police were able to confirm Elbasani was near the park within 10 minutes of the assault.
When Elbasani was arrested he confessed to Ontario authorities, but minimized the details, Jardine said. Elbasani claimed to have only punched the victim once, and denied exposing himself, Jardine said.
Elbasani also wrote the June 16 victim a letter of apology, and asked authorities for help with "mental health problems."
Jardine considered psychiatric and psychological assessments that described Elbasani as having bipolar disorder, an "organic mood disorder" and symptoms attributed to alcohol, crack cocaine and steroid abuse. He also noted a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, linked to a beating he suffered in 2009.
Jardine also took into account evidence from Elbasani's father, who told of how the family had come full circle with the 23-year-old, from giving up on him to being moved to support him by changes seen over the course of his incarceration.
"He said jail had been good for his son," Jardine said.
While Jardine said the family's support "bodes well" for Elbasani's rehabilitation, he noted Elbasani's parents have no plan for managing their son's issues "that would allay the very real concerns he presents to public safety."
Jardine named Elbasani's early guilty pleas, young age, expressions of remorse, willingness to undergo treatment and support from his family as among mitigating factors. Aggravating factors include that the attacks were random and unprovoked, that he fled the province, that the harm done was "not minimal" and that he is a high risk to reoffend.
Victim impact statements describe deep emotional and psychological impacts, he added.
"Emotionally is where the toll has been taken," Jardine quoted from the sexual-assault victim's statement. "I still feel vulnerable and deeply saddened that I am not able to feel safe in my own community."
The 41-month sentence includes consecutive terms of three years for the sexual assault (after credit for time in custody), four months for the hospital assault and one month for the breach.
Crown Jennifer Lopez said outside court she was satisfied with the penalty.
She was not surprised that Jardine put public safety first.
"The higher courts have set out for us that the primary sentencing factor is protection of the public," she said.